“Write the truth for a minute, then make the rest up.”
In truth, those aren’t my words. Heard them on the car radio the other day, half-listening to an NPR interview with an author whose name I didn't catch. The truth for a minute is this: I wouldn’t be scribbling these words or any others in a blog of my own, if it weren’t for Ann.
(Ann? No, she’s not in the picture on the left, but I like the conversation going on in the photo, don’t you? Look, what’s playing in your mind right now is a dance between the words - and pictures- on this screen - and your remarkable ability to synthesize them, to imagine something you can't see or hear, something so real it feels true to you. And that, my dear reader, is the very basis of writing. Be it fact or fiction, writing depends as much on the reader's imagination as the author's. )
The real Ann is a good friend of mine, and a former colleague - an ad writer who left the agency business a few years ago. Ann is now a self-employed, full-time writer, as she would say, “boss of her own words.” Ann makes up the truth as she sees it, writing fiction and a blog of her own. Her writing is courageous and exuberant, and often hilarious. Her grace and humor seem effortless, but I know she works at her craft with a passion that’s hard-won and sure.
I tell Ann that she’s the only real writer I know. And that’s the truth. Ann has written two novels. (If I had a novel rattling around in my head or a half-finished manuscript stashed in a drawer, I might be jealous of Ann’s contemplative writer’s life, living quietly on the edge as she does, just a sentence away from great adventures in a parallel universe, plotting a coming-of-age story or a murder mystery. I know full well that the writing life is a personal choice, and often a lonely one. I have not chosen that path. Not yet.
Back in January, perhaps as a New Year’s resolution, Ann invited about a dozen of us - all friends of hers from various creative pursuits - to follow her into the pages of a blog she called Artists Wayfarers. The site was an experiment. To see how far we could take our resolve to keep up the habits prescribed in The Artist’s Way- a guide to “higher creativity” by Julia Cameron. We were to write every day in the form of three handwritten “Morning Pages,” kept in a journal. The rest of it was essentially a 12-Step Variation on the themes of reclaiming and celebrating our creativity. And so I began to keep a notebook, scribbling and rambling to myself. And I started blogging - on and on - in an earnest, if not an honest, attempt to force my hand and my brain into the game -- to be “boss of my own words.”
Blogging. My husband calls this form of writing my recreation. Recreational? Writing!? Like using drugs for “recreation”. . . there’s no such thing. Seriously. Writing seems to me like a form of madness, a chronic state of checking your words, fitting pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle, making things up in search of your own true voice. It takes patience and a mental stamina like no other “recreation” I know. Shh-it, the stuff is all in your head. And to add insult to injury, there’s your self-appointed “Inner-Editor,” always calling, checking in to say hello, blockading your every passage, and stamping out your fires like Smokey the Bear. Whew! Like heavy exercise, writing to me feels best when I’ve found a satisfying place to stop every day and say, yes, that’s enough for now, it is what it is, I’ve done what I can, and if it’s underdone or overcooked or just plain nonsense, I can always revise it. Tomorrow.
While it’s true that I write “for a living,” the truth is that I don’t live to write. And there’s all the difference between Ann and me.
Ann has discovered the alchemy -- the magic of writing, the place on the page where the writer submits and the writing takes over. I’ve heard other writers describe it. It’s an itch they have to scratch. A master they must answer. Writing is like breathing, an unequivocal necessity. The true writers among us don’t stop until they’ve finished what the have to say.
Last January, Ann and I imagined a flourishing blogsite, blossoming before our eyes, with an energetic exchange of posts between a dozen writers and artists. Truth: we petered out, as all good things come to an end. The site became a posting ping pong game with a few onlookers occasionally adding their comments, until we all realized we could just as easily exchange email.
And so Ann moved on, gently encouraging us all to do the same. Ann is now the Writer on the Lake at www.lakeewriter.blogspot.com. Her humor and encouragement shine through the pages of this blogsite, as well. Ann is my one steadfast reader, and a blessing at that. A word from her is enough for me to stay the course. To keep blogging. A wild turtle. Crossing.
Having the last word, in a recent post, Ann writes...
Writing to please yourself is an amazing, good time. When it's going well, it's a blast. And when it's going rotten, it's still absolutely in the loving arms of you and your personal, magical Muse. When I'm not all cranky about the rigors of agent hunting, I know this in my soul.
You can know it, too. Look. If you don't want to write, don't. But if you've always thought you could, or if you already did and want to do more but you're having doubts or writerly angst, don't let anybody stop you.
Writing is a joyride. And we Authors get to drive the bus.
Go, Ann, go.
Photo credit: M. Henoch